Assessment methods in human body composition

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Abstract

Purpose of review

The present study reviews the most recently developed and commonly used methods for the determination of human body composition in vivo with relevance for nutritional assessment.

Recent findings

Body composition measurement methods are continuously being perfected with the most commonly used methods being bioelectrical impedance analysis, dilution techniques, air displacement plethysmography, dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, and MRI or magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Recent developments include three-dimensional photonic scanning and quantitative magnetic resonance. Collectively, these techniques allow for the measurement of fat, fat-free mass, bone mineral content, total body water, extracellular water, total adipose tissue and its subdepots (visceral, subcutaneous, and intermuscular), skeletal muscle, select organs, and ectopic fat depots.

Summary

There is an ongoing need to perfect methods that provide information beyond mass and structure (static measures) to kinetic measures that yield information on metabolic and biological functions. On the basis of the wide range of measurable properties, analytical methods and known body composition models, clinicians and scientists can quantify a number of body components and with longitudinal assessment, can track changes in health and disease with implications for understanding efficacy of nutritional and clinical interventions, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment in clinical settings. With the greater need to understand precursors of health risk beginning in childhood, a gap exists in appropriate in-vivo measurement methods beginning at birth.

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